BISHKEK/ALMATY -- A committee to protect ethnic Kyrgyz in China has been established in Kyrgyzstan amid fresh reports of further repression by Beijing of the multiethnic indigenous community in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang.
The Committee To Protect Kyrgyz People In China was created by activists and a group of Kyrgyz men and women who moved to Kyrgyzstan and obtained either Kyrgyz residence or citizenship.
At their initial meeting in Bishkek on November 29, they said relatives who either stayed in Xinjiang or visited the Chinese region after moving to Kyrgyzstan had been detained and kept incommunicado in so-called "reeducation camps" for months or even years.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Kazakhstan, a group of ethnic Kazakhs, who left Xinjiang for Kazakhstan, held a gathering at the Atazhurt Young Volunteers center in Almaty on November 30 to urge Kazakh authorities and the international community to secure the release of relatives being held at such camps in China.
After Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz from Xinjiang resettled in the two Central Asian nations, taking advantage of state resettlement programs.
In recent months, Kazakhs originally from Xinjiang have held protests in Almaty and Astana, demanding Kazakh authorities and Western governments do more to free relatives held in camps in Xinjiang.
United Nations human rights officials said in August that an estimated 1 million Muslims from Xinjiang, mainly Uyghurs, were being held in "counterextremism centers" in China and millions more have been forced into reeducation camps.
China has denied the facilities are internment camps. Uyghurs are the largest indigenous community in Xinjiang, followed by Kazakhs, and the region is also home to ethnic Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Hui, also known as Dungans.
Han, China's largest ethnicity, are the second largest community in Xinjiang.